Canadians hoping to celebrate next Canada Day with a legal joint might see their summer plans go up in smoke. Conservative senators are threatening to delay marijuana legalization in Canada until the end of 2018.
"I think we have to do our job properly, and that means months," Conservative Senator Claude Carignan recently told the Globe and Mail. "The House took eight months to study [the legislation]. It will probably take the same timeline to do our job properly."
The upper chamber of Canada's parliament won't consider the bill until they reconvene on January 30. Then they'll have a week off in February, two in March, another two in April and one more in May before summer break, which runs from June 30 to September 17. So if they insist on taking a full 8 months, they won't settle the matter until December 2018.
And that could be a huge problem for provinces that have already invested heavily in legalization. New Brunswick, for instance, recently finalized plans to acquire 13 million grams of marijuana ahead of July 1, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government planned to pass legalization into law. Other regions have incurred similar expenses by leasing sites for marijuana stores, and police departments have already begun acquiring new equipment and training officers to keep high drivers off the roads. So if Conservative senators drag their feet, they will put wrinkles into legalization plans across the country.
But Senator Carignan doesn't have any sympathy for jurisdictions or other stakeholders who will be financially impacted by a potential delay.
Businesses "take a risk if they adopt a plan...without legislation in place adopted by both houses," he said. "My recommendation is to take their time and don't take an unusual business risk."
Carignan says the delay is necessary to discuss issues that weren't sufficiently addressed in the cannabis bills, such as workplace drug tests, marijuana tax schemes and the impact of legalization on Canadian youth. But opponents say the Conservatives are playing politics with pot.
"This is the old system going on," Senator Frances Lankin — an Independent appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau — told the Globe and Mail. "This is the opposition trying to throw a spanner into the works of the government."
But if that's the case, the Conservatives could face backlash from colleagues like André Pratte, another Independent, who says he would join a coalition of senators to pushback against partisan delays and pass the bill.
"[If] there are people who are delaying the vote by tactics that only aim to delay, then I would be part of a group that would try to get us to a vote," Pratte told the Globe and Mail.
But there's no telling which side will win this weed tug-of-war.
h/t Globe and Mail